24 Jan 2022 By travelpulse
The Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) is hoping to rebrand the islands to attract "mindful, respectful and high-value travelers," this year, after requesting $60 million in state funding to help promote more responsible tourism.
According to the Honolulu Civil Beat, Governor David Ige and his administration requested the money to focus on promoting environmental and cultural programs that travelers would want to participate in during their stay, which would have a beneficial impact on the islands.
A reported $34.2 million would go towards branding activities, while $14.4 of it would be spent on the tourism organization's global marketing programs. The money, if approved, would be spent within the next fiscal year, which begins on July 1.
Changing the way the Hawaiian islands are viewed, from a beautiful beach destination to a destination to be respected as well as explored for its multi-cultural heritage and rich yet fragile ecosystems, is also meant to help Hawaiian residents cope with large amounts of tourists. If more travelers are respectful and can willingly contribute to the islands' sustainability or cultural initiatives, then residents are more likely to welcome them, too.
This is the first year the tourism authority will have to request a budget from lawmakers, due to changes made to the program during the pandemic. Last year's budget was the same amount, which was less than its 2019 budget of $79 million, but its source was from federal relief funds, not the Hawaiian government.
"Branding for me is much like - if I were to use an agricultural metaphor - it's like the quality of the soil, keeping it full of nutrients, keeping it aerated, keeping it fertile," HTA's president and chief executive, John De Fries said. "So that whether your enterprise is a major hotel or whether you're a mom-and-pop store in Hana, anything you plant in this soil called tourism grows properly because people understand Hawaii to be something unique, special and memorable, and worth investing in in terms of a vacation."
According to an HTA survey for Hawaiian residents conducted by late 2020, 67 percent strongly or somewhat agreed that the island of Hawaii is "run for tourists at the expense of local people," which is not sustainable for residents.
Despite the pandemic and Hawaii's strict entry requirements, which now require a booster dose, Hawaii has seen a large number of tourists enter the state in 2020 and 2021. According to HTA data, the number of 2020 arrivals by air into the state is 2.6 million people; 2021's number of travelers is even greater, at over 6 million. In 2019, that number was 10.2 million.
The Hawaiian Tourism Authority has been evolving a more mindful idea of the way tourism can be throughout the pandemic; one of its programs, Malama Hawaii, offers travelers benefits like discounts and even free nights at hotels or resorts in exchange for volunteering their time at one of several initiatives, like restoring a forest at Gunstock Ranch or participating in a beach cleanup.
The program is part of its strategic plan for 2025, which works to further the state's commitment to achieving the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.
While some governors are skeptical of the large budget and the HTA's corresponding goals, the Hawaii Tourism Authority is optimistic about working with the legislative body to finalize a proper budget.
For information about the Hawaiian Tourism Authority, please visit its website.
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